It is a stage victory for supporters of the right to abortion in the USA: A federal court in Austin, Texas has temporarily stopped the state’s extremely strict abortion law after a complaint by the US government. With the entry into force of the regulation, women were illegally prevented from exercising control over their lives, according to the judgment. The success for the Biden Camp supporters could be short-lived, however – the Republican government of Texas immediately announced an appeal against the court’s injunction.
The so-called Heartbeat Act, which bans most abortions in Texas, has been in force since the beginning of September. It prohibits abortion once the fetus’s heartbeat has been determined. This can be the case as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. Many women do not yet know that they are pregnant at this point. What is unusual about the regulation is that it enables private individuals to take civil action against anyone who helps a woman with an abortion.
The scheme allows lawsuits against a wide range of people – from the taxi driver driving a woman to the clinic to parents who financially support their daughter with an abortion. The US Department of Justice spoke of “bounty hunters” and called the law “clearly unconstitutional”. It was not until the weekend that thousands again demonstrated in the United States for the right to abortion. The law in Texas caused great damage to the people there, criticized the civil rights organization ACLU in response to the current decision. “We will continue to fight until our right to abortion is permanently restored.”
The appeals court has already ruled in favor of the abortion law
Federal Judge Robert Pitman wrote in his judgment that the court would not allow another day to “deprive such an important right”. According to a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court in 1973, abortions are allowed in the United States until the fetus is viable – now around the 24th week of pregnancy. In full awareness that it would be unconstitutional to withhold this right from citizens through direct state measures, the state has come up with an “unprecedented” regulation to do just that, the verdict went on to say.
In theory, clinics can now again perform abortions of the type that the law had forbidden. However, they must continue to fear that they will be sued if a higher court overturns the decision. This is to be expected – because the relevant appellate court had previously allowed the law to come into force. Some clinics should therefore continue to wait for final legal clarification in order not to take any risks. The Supreme Court also rejected an urgent application against the Heartbeat Act at the beginning of September – but did not decide on the matter.
The dispute over the right to abortion has preoccupied courts and society in the United States for decades. The Supreme Court will soon deal with another case that could severely restrict the right to abortion nationwide. A hearing on a legal dispute from the state of Mississippi is scheduled for early December. The case tries to reverse the 1973 Supreme Court decision.
Under the former US President Donald Trump, the Supreme Court has become much more conservative due to new appointments. Many therefore fear that the as Roe v. Wade well-known fundamental decision from the 1970s could be overturned.